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Student Volunteer Service Should Be Exactly That: Voluntary

Shauna Simeone / Opinion Editor

Barack Obama and his administration have emphasized the importance of service and giving back to the community. Ideas for new laws and mandates have been proposed that could have a large impact on the lives of college students and a large portion of school-aged children. 

A new bill entitled the “Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education Act”, or simply the “GIVE Act” passed the house two weeks ago. The bills aim is to “reauthorize and reform the national service laws”. An amendment in the bill that mandated service for children was removed, but the idea of mandatory service has not been completely forgotten. 

On the White House Web site, the President’s goals for service reform are listed. The integration of service into education was greatly emphasized. He hopes to require 100 hours per year of service for college students in exchange for a $4,000 tax credit. Another goal of his is that “all middle and high school students complete 50 hours of community service a year”.   

It seems that mandating service diminishes the purpose of it in the first place, which is for people to willingly donate their time to help others and the community. CCSU student Katherine Bossardet agrees with this statement.

“When students are forced to take part in service some of the students will inevitably hate it and become troublesome,” she said. “Service would be more productive with students who genuinely want to volunteer.” 

It is also important to consider the view that students will have of service after they were forced to take part in it. Giving back to the community will become a chore. Another CCSU student Kevin Tiernan believes that mandatory service would change students’ ideas about volunteering and they would be less apt to take part in it in the future.

Many college kids may find this mandatory obligation is a severe burden to them and it may even affect their education. Anthony Marceau is a CCSU athlete and explained that his schedule is extremely busy already.

“Athletes already have eight hours a week of mandatory study hall. In the mornings I have lifting, then classes, practice and homework. I also have meets on the weekends,” Marceau said.

He doesn’t think it would be reasonable to force college students to complete 100 hours of service even with the tax credit. Many college students hold down jobs as well to pay for their living expenses. How can we expect them to give up their time when they are already struggling to pay off their own finances and expenses?

As for high school and middle school students, I believe the same problems arise. In high school many students take advanced placement classes and partake in sports year round.

CCSU student Ben Lazarus thinks that 50 hours is excessive. He generally likes the idea of service but thinks that the service may have to exclude middle school students, for example, because they are less likely to have their own source of transportation.

This is a valid point because many students have both of their parents working and rely on the school bus to get them home. Transportation would become a big issue for them and also put added stress on their parents. 

Freshman Harrison Katz has a different view on the subject. He thinks that mandatory service is a good opportunity.

“It keeps kids out of trouble and teaches them the idea of giving back to the community,” he said.
“The fact that college students get a tax credit makes it more like a part time job and teaches them about responsibility and time management”. 

Service is a beneficial part of our community, but mandating it is still a worrisome idea.

“Students should spend their time learning and studying. If they want to do it on their own time that is great, but they shouldn’t be forced into it,” Marceau added.

Our country would not be what it is today without the countless volunteers and citizens who provide services to our country. The beauty of volunteering is that people do it because they want to. It would be unfair to expect students to donate their valuable time without compensation. 

Mandating service for students would be a huge violation of our freedoms as Americans. College students in particular have extremely busy lives. Our priorities may lay elsewhere and the government should not be allowed to tell us what we are required to spend our time doing.